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Black barbershops in Seattle's Central District critical for strong community

As gentrification in the Central District continues, some of Seattle's black barbershops have remained a place for people to talk and share experiences.

SEATTLE — Long-time residents of Seattle's Central District neighborhood describe the streets they grew up on as full of diversity, filled with proud black Americans, living each day rich on life.

Earl Lancaster's barbershop, Earl's Cuts and Styles, has been around since 1992.

He said growing up, he remembered a strong sense of community.

"The only place people, outside of church, they could congregate, was the barbershop," said Lancaster.

As gentrification in the Central District continues, many shops have moved south, taking their talents and services to cities like Kent, Federal Way and Auburn.

But like a quality cut, some of Seattle's black barbershops have aged well.

On a Friday afternoon, Lancaster's barbershop is still buzzing as everyone says what's on their minds.

He said no topic of conversation is exempt, as the wise pass on their lessons to the young.

"Some of our talk is transient," Lancaster said. "How we conduct ourselves on the streets."

After decades of business at 23rd and Union in the Midtown Center, Lancaster now operates out of a new space in the Liberty Bank Building.

RELATED: Longtime barber stays in gentrified Central District with help from Seattle University

He's watched as many black families and businesses moved out of the neighborhood, but what remains is the unofficial role of the barbershop, a voice of wisdom to many.

"People come in and shoot the breeze," said Lancaster.

One topic discussed is health, something long-time barbershop client Glenn Brooks is passionate about.

Brooks owns a healthcare company called "Casa Bella Home Care Services," providing care and support to people inside their homes.

On Saturdays, he is often spotted at Earl's, checking the blood pressure of clients.

"The not-informed need to be informed that they might be carrying a trait called diabetes and you don't know that unless you get your blood pressure checked to see where your levels are," said Brooks.

Lancaster said advice is something the barbershop specializes in.

"Get some counseling, fashion consulting, therapy," he said.

What is said at the barbershop, does in fact leave the barbershop, with the mission of reaching the community.

"This is where everyone comes in and communicates to one another and hangs out, get your hair cut, but you also get lessons in life," said Brooks. "You know, life lesson skills that go on here every day, that one can use in each part of their lives every day."

Watch more videos as KING 5 celebrates Black History Month:

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